Welcome to Inheritance Books in 2014! To start it off this year, we’ve got a poet. Abbie sent me the most helpful submission by reading the blog and preparing her contribution to be exactly right, so that all I had to do was drop the text in. Thanks Abbie, this makes you a Top Contributor. If I had an award for that, you’d get it. Anyway, on with the show.
Hi Abbie, welcome to Inheritance Books. Tell me a bit about yourself.
I work for a publisher, but after years of contact with ‘real authors’, I succumbed to the temptation to become one myself. In office hours, I work as Managing Editor for Summersdale Publishers (www.summersdale.com), where we produce books ranging from memoirs and travel narratives to the delightful and occasionally very silly gift and humour end of the list, which includes titles such as F in Exams and Foul-Mouthed Pets.
My new book, the Poetry First Aid Kit, falls between these two extremes: it’s a celebration of the healing power of poetry, and it covers serious subjects such as heartache and how to lead a happy life, along with lighter issues such as whether to go out for a beer on a work-night or how to make the chore of mowing the lawn more inspiring.
Which book have you inherited from your parents/grandparents? Why is it special?
I don’t remember a time when my parents had to encourage me to read, although I’m sure they did when I was tiny. I will always be grateful to them for giving me lots of time to spend reading – if I had to choose just one key childhood memory, it would be lying on my bed after school, bathed in sunshine and lost in a book until the call ‘Tea’s ready!’ reached me from the kitchen.
The two books I’d like to feature here are Invitation to the Waltz and The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann. Both my parents led me to discover these wonderful books from the 1930s, because my mum had them on the shelves, and I dived into them after my dad played me the BBC Radio 4 Classic Serial versions of them as he drove me, yet again, back to Oxford for another term.
In Invitation to the Waltz we meet Olivia, a sensitive teenager. She prepares the perfect flame-coloured dress for her first dance, but when the night comes she discovers it’s all wrong – she looks as out of place as she has always felt herself to be. It’s a novel about feeling everything too deeply and about being not quite right for the society you’re supposed to be moving in. You can imagine that a young bookish woman might well identify with this pretty closely…
The Weather in the Streets is the sequel, and takes place ten years later. Olivia has now grown up and is living a life of bohemian poverty in London. The golden boy we met in the first book is now married, and Olivia begins an affair with him, which of course does not end well for her. Although to modern eyes these books will feel naturally a little dated, what I most love about them is their honest portrayal of a woman’s experiences – in an era when behaving well is so important, we see exactly what Olivia is feeling and how tormented she is by the conflicting pressures upon her. She’s a woman of the 1930s, but readers of the 2010s will find a lot in her story that rings true today.
I’m going to have to look those books up. *scuttles off*. In the meantime…
Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
A book I would like to pass on to the next generation is Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. The cover explains what you’ll find inside this unusual, dictionary-style memoir: “I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story.”
Everything about this book is delightful. It’s packed with tables, illustrations and diagrams, it’s printed on nice creamy paper, and the cover design is simple but striking. Even the back-cover blurb is a pleasure: it doesn’t describe the book but instead discusses what the author thinks about when standing in a bookstore holding a book. But beyond all this is of course the book itself. This encyclopedia presents nuggets from Amy’s life, from ‘Amy’ through to ‘You’, passing through digressions on Dentists, Introducing a Friend to a Friend, Rearranged Furniture, and much more.
The joy of this book comes from reading Amy’s witty but also personal and moving reflections on the minutiae of life, jumbled together just as life itself is. I think this book is not widely known outside America but I find it very inspiring, and I’d like to pass it on for others to enjoy.
Another great recommendation. Before I scuttle off to Amazon to check that one out too, I’d just like to say, ‘thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us’. So…
Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Abbie. I hope your book zooms up the charts.
Abbie’s book Poetry First Aid Kit is available on Amazon:
You can find Abbie on Twitter (@abbieheadon) – please stop by and say hello!